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The Lifeboat [Hardcover]

Charlotte Rogan
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 11.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012

I was to stand trial for my life. I was twenty-two years old. I had been married for ten weeks and a widow for six.

In the summer of 1914, the Empress Alexandra, a magnificent ocean liner, suffers a mysterious explosion on its voyage from London to New York City. On board are Henry Winter, a rich banker, and his young new wife, Grace. Somehow, Henry manages to secure a place in a lifeboat for Grace. But the survivors quickly realize it is over capacity and could sink at any moment. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace watches and waits. She is a woman who has learned the value of patience - her journey to a life of glittering privilege has been far from straightforward. Now, she knows, it is in jeopardy, and her very survival is at stake.

Over the course of three perilous weeks, the passengers on the lifeboat plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while sitting inches apart. Their deepest beliefs about goodness, humanity and God are tested to the limit as they begin to discover what they will do in order to survive.

The Lifeboat is a page-turning story of moral dilemmas, and also the moving and haunting story of Grace, a woman as unforgettable and complicated as the story she recounts.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844087522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844087525
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. Her childhood experiences among a family of sailors and the discovery of an old criminal law text provided inspiration for The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Connecticut. The Lifeboat is being translated into 25 languages.

Product Description


Charlotte Rogan uses a deceptively simply narrative of shipwreck and survival to explore our all-too-human capacity for self-deception (J M Coetzee)

The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential: I read it in one go (Emma Donoghue, author of ROOM)

The Lifeboat is a richly rewarding novel, psychologically acute and morally complex. It can and should be read on many levels, but it is first and foremost a harrowing tale of survival. And what an irresistible tale it is: terrifying, intense, and, like the ocean in which the shipwrecked characters are cast adrift, profound (Valerie Martin, winner of the Orange Prize for Property)

What a splendid book. It rivets the reader's attention, and at the same time it seethes with layered ambiguity. It's beautifully controlled and totally believable (Hilary Mantel, Man Booker Prize Winner of Wolf Hall)

Characters that haunt the imagination for days . . . All kinds of social and moral questions are raised. This fabulous first novel is almost unbearably exciting - you'll gulp it down in a single sitting (Kate Saunders The Times)

Extraordinary . . . Gripping narrative . . . A magnificently layered book with echoes of Joseph Conrad, Lord of the Flies and the Ancient Mariner . . . It is that rare thing - a book that is as compelling as it is profound (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)

Book Description

The Lifeboat is a daring and adventurous novel set just before the First World War. It begins in a courtroom, where an enigmatic young woman named Grace Winter is on trial; in flashback, we learn why . . .

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking what would have made it brilliant 13 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is such a good premise for a book. A ship sinks following a fire on board, and 39 disparate passengers find themselves squashed on board a lifeboat clearly not suitable for holding that many people. From the very first pages, the people on the lifeboat find themselves facing acute moral dilemmas. Do they help the desperate people in the sea, thereby threatening their own survival and the meagre supplies of food and water on the lifeboat? Or do they beat them away with the oars?

I don't know what I'd do in that situation, but this book certainly makes you think. The story is told through the eyes of a young bride, now widow, Grace, one of those on the lifeboat. We know she survived because, at the beginning, she is facing trial in her home country of America along with two other passengers, for murder. You have to read the book to find out how, and why, Grace came to be where she is.

This is an 'unputdownable' book. I raced to the end to find out what had happened but... I feel it is not as good as it should be. Plenty of hints are dropped about what might have caused the explosion that sank the ship in the first place, including dodgy dealings and the potential involvement of Grace's husband, but this storyline is never made clear, which is frustrating. And because none of the passengers in the lifeboat is particularly likeable, it is hard to empathise with them. It's almost a brilliant book. It has all the right ingredients, but the result is not nearly as good as it could have been.
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat 31 Mar 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Two years after the loss of Titanic, and just after the outbreak of WWI, the ocean liner Empress Alexandra sinks. There is an explosion and a fire on board, leading to panic and the launching of just over half the available lifeboats. Grace Winter, newly married to Henry, is placed by her husband aboard Lifeboat 14, one of the last to get away safely. At first, it seems as though their only problem is to get the lifeboat as far away from the ship as possible. However, having escaped the initial danger, those on board - thirty nine in all, including thirty one women and one child - have to face the harsh reality that the rescue they are awaiting may not be coming.

When we meet Grace, a most resourceful and realistic heroine, she is in prison on trial for her life. Her lawyers suggest she try to recreate the events of those twenty one days after the ship went down, and her diary is what we read, as the story of what happened and why she is on trial unfolds. This is an excellent, atmospheric and well written novel, which draws you in and refuses to let you stop reading. Grace tells her story simply and well, feeling no doubt in her actions, although we readers are often unsure she should be so certain of her belief. In fact, Grace's status seems as unreliable and shifting as the sea the boat floats precariously on.

As Grace narrates her story, she says, "the bare bones of our natures were showing," and it is hard to disagree with her. Yet, it is also impossible to judge how people could, or would, react in such a desperate situation. Certainly, the situation in the Lifeboat leads to those on board exhibiting the best and worst that humanity has to offer - from disagreements, discord and jealousy to self sacrifice. If this novel does not win awards, I will be stunned. This is an excellent book and would be ideal for a reading group looking for an intelligent and thought provoking novel to discuss.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring 26 Jan 2013
By Reg
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thank god for electronic download, otherwise this book would have been a waste of paper as well as my time! It's total dribble. This book confirms to me why nine out of ten books that I read are non fiction. The characters were shallow to the point that you do not relate to any of them while reading the book. There are no twists or turns in it. Just boring. I don't like giving bad reviews as I couldn't write a book myself, but if I tried I think it would turn out very much like this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat 22 Nov 2012
By Plaine
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for my book club. I found it dreary. Too many story lines were left unfinished. Characters not well developed. I wouldn't have finished the book if it wasn't for the book group. Opinion was divided in the group but most found it an unsatisfactory read.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally unimpressed 4 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like a few other reviewers, having now read 'The Lifeboat', I wonder what all the hype is about. I liked the sound of it and almost bought it, but then was offered a copy by Amazon for review, and am very glad I didn't have to pay for it.
I recently read a wonderful book about the sinking of the Titanic ('Women and Children First' by Gill Paul), and thought this might be a good one to continue the theme. Unfortunately though, 'The Lifeboat' was a huge disappointment. I imagined that in the confines of the boat the reader would find strong characterisation would contribute to a tight plot. However the characters were never developed, in fact having just finished this book I struggle to remember any of them with any clarity, they were all just cardboard cutouts and it was difficult to recall one from another.
I plodded on and on through the book expecting something great to happen that would make me see what all the 5 star reviewers saw. After struggling reluctantly to the bitter end with no improvement, I had assumed an amazing revealation would come about in the last few pages, but alas no. In fact I read the last sentence at the bottom of a page, turned over to continue and found that was it, it had finished.
I don't like giving negative reviews but I'm afraid I could find nothing good to report on this book, I found it boring throughout and regret wasting several precious hours reading it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent page turner exploring some powerful ethical dilemmas about...
This is a powerful and taut novel from a new author about the experiences of a number of passengers and one crew member who escape in a lifeboat from the sinking of the (fictional)... Read more
Published 10 days ago by John Hopper
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a Deeper Ocean than the Sea
I thought The Lifeboat was a very multi-layered book, and it's easy to see why it has received so many mixed reviews. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Materia Keeper
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetative
I started reading this book with interest as I thought I could imagine myself on the lifeboat with the rest of the eclectic mix of rescued people, it was quite interesting at... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Patricia Boland
2.0 out of 5 stars not for me
I began to think how many more chapters can a person write about a life boat and the people in it. I continued to the end but it was not good.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. M. Hall
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I thought this would be a great subject to read about. I don't think it's my type of book. It was read by all my book club and had mixed reviews. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. J. J. Trister
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Engaging
Quite a tense read. I read it on the back of a radio book review. It is very good and shows up clearly that back in that time, if you were made of steel, you must look like a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by RLM
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit tedious
Felt that this story had potential but never really capitalised on this. The story became rather tedious and I did not feel empathy for the characters.
Published 3 months ago by Phil Aldis
4.0 out of 5 stars What would you do?
I had a very long journey, which thankfully did not involve a lifeboat! This book helped pass the miles. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. mckay
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lifeboat
This book was fantastic: insightful, terrifying, tragic and very difficult to put down. This is without doubt one of the best stories about being ship wrecked I have read in a long... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars The lifeboat
A good read p. Thank you Kane for putting me on to it . Left a lot of unanswered questions but the story's worked very well. Worth reading
Published 4 months ago by Hudson
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